EPA Scrapping Four-Gallon Minimum on E15 Fill-Ups

12/20/2012 @ 1:12 pm, by Jensen Beeler22 COMMENTS

I have to admit, the whole E15 controversy that has been brewing between the EPA and AMA has me a bit confused. Namely, I do not know how the EPA ever thought that a four-gallon minimum purchase requirement solved anything for powersport users who were concerned about putting E15 in the tanks of their motorcycles and ATVs.

Realizing that a solution to the actual problem had to be devised, the EPA has now dropped the four-gallon minimum on fuel pumps that dispense E10 and E15 from the same pump, and instead the government body says it will likely require gas stations to label shared pumps, as well as offer a dedicated E10 pump/hose for vehicles.

For those not familiar with the issue, the EPA is pushing the use of E15 (fuel comprised of 15% ethanol) on standard gasoline pumps. With most motorcycles and ATVs not rated to use E15 (thus voiding the vehicles warranty on fuel-related issues if E15 is used), the AMA and other automotive groups have pushed back on the EPA’s movement to the blended fuel.

The whole E15 debate not withstanding, one of the issues in the controversy was fuel pumps that had a single nozzle. Conceivably, a motorist buying E10 fuel could get a dose of residual E15 fuel during their sale, if the customer before them filled up with E15 at that same pump.

For car and truck drivers, this is less of an issue, since the minimal amount of E15 would be diluted with a tank primarily comprised of E10 fuel. However, motorcyclists and ATV owners, with their smaller fuel tanks, would not have as great of a dilution effect.

Imposing a four-gallon minimum pump amount, the EPA successfully insured that any multi-fuel dispenser would adequately sell enough E10 to counteract any residual E15, however failed to realize that for motorcycles and ATVs, a four gallon fill-up isn’t always practical, let alone even possible on some models.

It is beyond us here at Asphalt & Rubber why this issue existed in the first place, since it seems like a fairly obvious problem to see coming down the pipe, but yet here we are with its happy resolution. A press release from the AMA is below.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency may no longer require minimum gas purchase at certain pumps

PICKERINGTON, Ohio — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is apparently scrapping its requirement that all consumers buy at least four gallons of gasoline from certain gas pumps that dispense the new E15 ethanol-gasoline blend, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.

The EPA first revealed its minimum-purchase requirement to the AMA in a letter dated Aug. 1, responding to AMA concerns that E15 — a gasoline formulation that contains up to 15 percent ethanol by volume — could be put in motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle gas tanks inadvertently when consumers used blender pumps. A blender pump dispenses different fuel blends through the same hose, and the vast majority of motorcycles and ATVs in use today aren’t designed to operate on E15 fuel.

The EPA had said that the minimum purchase requirement was meant to dilute any residual E15 fuel left in the hose.

On Dec. 17, in response to ongoing AMA concerns, the EPA indicated to the AMA that it would no longer require a minimum purchase of four gallons. Instead, the EPA will now likely require a label on blender pumps that dispense E10 and E15 through the same hose that state the pump is solely for passenger cars and trucks.

In addition, the EPA indicated it will require stations that sell E15 to also have a pump with a dedicated E10 hose for use by motorcycles and other vehicles the EPA hasn’t approved for E15 use.

“With E15 gasoline, our members who make a concerted effort to fuel their motorcycles or ATVs with E10-or-less gasoline may be unknowingly refueling with residual fuel left in the hose,” Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations, had said to the EPA before the agency’s Dec. 17 comments.

“Unlike an automobile or SUV that has a large fuel tank, the residual fuel left in a fueling hose could be detrimental to the performance of motorcycle or ATV engines due to the small size of their fuel tanks and the higher concentration of ethanol that would, therefore, be present in the fuel,” Allard had said. “In addition, the use of E15 will lower fuel efficiency and possibly cause premature engine failure. Use of E15 fuel voids many manufacturer warranties. In off-road engines, the effects can even be dangerous for users.”

The AMA has repeatedly expressed concerns to government officials and federal lawmakers about possible damage to motorcycle and ATV engines caused by the inadvertent use of E15 when the new fuel becomes widely available, and has asked that motorcycles and ATVs be part of any scientific study into the effects of E15.

Ethanol is essentially grain alcohol produced from crops such as corn that is mixed with gasoline to produce an ethanol-gasoline blend motor fuel. In October 2010, the EPA approved the use of E15 in model year 2007 and newer light-duty vehicles (cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles). Then, in January 2011, the EPA added model year 2001-06 light-duty vehicles to the approved list.

No motorcycles or ATVs are currently on the list.

Source: AMA

  • John

    Why the #*@k are we putting corn ethanol into our fuel anyway???
    The agriculture lobby, that’s why. Drives the price of corn up, less efficient and more expensive that plain ol’ gas. Jeez, I wanna get off of this bus.

  • Seconding John. How about instead of crazy rules and infrastructure and engine modifications to accomodate E10/15, we stop subsidizing a fuel that has no real environmental or economic benefits and has the nasty side effect of making corn such a cheap foodstock that other starches and sugars become non-competitive in American diets?

  • protomech

    ^^ Marc. Ditch the corn subsidy, many problems go away.

    Plug bikes trade the E0/E10/E15 crap for their own unique blend of energy delivery crap, 110v vs J1772 vs DC quick charging.. so no real room to feel smug heh.

    Who wants E15?

    Not gas sellers, who will have to either convert an existing pump or add an entirely new pump ($$$).

    Not automakers who are furiously trying to dodge this bullet.

    Not consumers, who already pay the economy tax from E10 and now have to decide between E10 and E15. Every opportunity for a decision is an opportunity for a wrong decision.. some number of consumers will fill an old car with E15 and get shafted.

    Not sure why the EPA supports it. At best, it’s marginally better than gasoline .. shift from E10 to E15 might represent a 1% reduction in CO2 output. At worst, it’s break-even vs gasoline.

    If it was switchgrass, it might be worth the effort. It’s not. And it’s not.

  • Pingback: Asphalt & Rubber()

  • Tom

    Its always amusing to see the right wing rail against big gub’mint, but the fact of the matter is – big bid’ness loves big gub’mint because it can buy it as easily as small gub’mint. Big bid’ness has been successful in creating the mentality that the gub’mint is some sort of foreign occupier completely divorced from the people. Big bid’ness loves the gub’mint and sees no wall of separation

  • TDG

    Here’s an idea: in lieu of requiring a dedicated E10 pump, how about a dedicated E-ZERO pump?

  • Ginger

    Tom, that’s not a “fact,” that’s your opinion. And one that doesn’t actually say anything about the topic, at that.

  • AC

    Ethanol is a total and utter disaster. The EPA and the corn lobby can take E15 and shove it up their tailpipes.

    Look at how many Ducati takes have been completely warped by this stuff. Not only does it raise the price of land, it drives livestock feed prices up and consequently groceries. We’re burning food to make fuel, which ironically gives us less gas mileage per gallon than plain ‘ole gasoline.

    This isn’t a left or right issue, either–E10/E15 is a stupid idea that hurts us all in the long-term.

  • RJJR

    I would love to see a breakdown of how much energy is used to create E15, vs regular old 93oct. I get the feeling that not only does the consumers fuel economy go down, but the amount of energy used to create it would show its only “green” in name. I’m still baffled that we now have oxygen injectors in our exhaust, to make our engines more efficient. Do we thank the EPA for that too? And Tom, pay attention, right wing, left wing has no bearing here, we are talking about effectiveness of policy, not politics.

  • protomech

    RJJR, take a look at this report from the USDA:

    Brief summary is that little liquid fuels (autogas, LPG, diesel) are used to produce ethanol.. roughly 1 gallon of liquid fuels per 6 gallons of ethanol. Liquid fuels are used to operate various farm equipment, transport materials on/to/from the farm & mill, etc.

    Production of the corn uses roughly 1/4 of the total energy for ethanol production. Refining is another 2/3 of the energy, with the remainder used for material transport, chemical inputs, etc.

    The bulk of the energy used to refine corn kernels to ethanol is natural gas and coal. Natural gas is used in the production of nitrogen and other fertilizers and in furnaces used for refining at the mill. Coal is used as a fuel for furnaces in the refinement mills.

    Significant amounts of grid electricity are used to produce ethanol as well. The production of corn uses a small amount of electricity, and dry-mills (dedicated refining plants for ethanol, contrast to multi-use wet mills) also use grid power. Just the electricity used to produce 1 gal of ethanol (1.3 kWh) would power my electric bike (2012 zero s) for 10-13 miles.

    Overall, the study concludes that 77228 BTU of thermal energy (common unit for fuels) are used to produce 1 gallon of ethanol. 1 gal of ethanol has 84000 BTU (1 gal of gas has 125000 BTU, or 50% more than ethanol) .. so without considering coproducts, ethanol production is marginally energy-positive @ 1.08 units of energy out per 1 unit energy in.

    Coproducts are the non-kernel portions of the corn not used in refining .. typically “distiller’s grains”, meal, and feed. The USDA study accounts for the coproducts by giving ethanol refining a “credit” based upon the energy required to produce the market equivalents to the coproducts .. assuming that the coproducts would displace the market equivalents and thereby reduce energy use.

    After coproduct accounting, the study comes back with the final number 1.34 units energy out per unit energy input. The real number will vary based upon corn yields (bad years will drop energy yield closer to unity) as well as improvements in the refining processes, which have changed since the study’s 1996 data.

    The good thing about ethanol production is that it does largely use domestic fuels, eg natural gas and coal .. and I assume this is largely the driving motivation behind the US government pushing ethanol.

    So while my bike is indirectly powered by natural gas and coal (among others), a vehicle running on 10-15% blends of ethanol also is indirectly powered by small amounts of natural gas and coal.

  • Gritboy


  • “Why the #*@k are we putting corn ethanol into our fuel anyway???”

    Pollution is bad enough. Make it GMO pollution and *ICK*. :-P

  • Tom

    No ginger, I posted a fact. Big business loves the government and the ethanol laws/subsidies are but one example. You are free to live in Plato’s Cave but many of us refuse to hid from the real world.

  • lasermax

    It’s just more “screw the little guy in the name of our big money buddy system.” Money money money money money.

  • Greg

    Most of us are not going to have to worry about E15 as I do not see it ever being widely available, at least in the near future. The reason being is that the major fuel suppliers that supply 90% of the nations gasoline are not going to produce it without a waiver from the Government shielding them from liability, and I don’t see that ever happening.

  • MadMaxx

    Greg, The EPA had pushed for the retail sale of E-15 fuel be MANDATED at all stations by 2014, so yes it will be not only widely available, but mandated in the VERY near future. One thing to also remember, not only have NO motorcycles been approved for use with E-15, none had even been tested for approval since very few can even run it. The high performance nature of current motorcycle engine designs have them running on the edge of their fuel injectors’ maximum limits with E-10, E-15 would surely breach that point. Auto manufacturers are against this ruling as well as the bike manufacturers because around 80% of the ‘non-flex fuel’ cars would void their warranties, just as the bikes would, from using this fuel! And that is just the CURRENT crop of vehicles… that doesn’t even start to account for the millions of 2006 and earlier vehicles NOT included in the EPA list, especially those with carburetors!! I tried fueling my 1986 Gold Wing (which had to be rejetted to accept E-10 years ago) with 2 gallons to get to the next E-10 station, and ended up running rough, hot and lost around 20% of its gas mileage. This is some bad stuff.
    Also, nobody here has even hit on the fact that with higher alcohol levels come higher exhaust emissions due to the exhaust temps being reduced, slowing the Catalytic converter from achieving/ or keeping its proper temp to do its job. It’s amazing how over the last year ALL of the reports on EPA exhaust emission levels with available comparison from E-10 and E-85 that had been available on the WWW have been summarily removed from the web….

  • Robert Chase

    Honestly I see E-15 as part of a larger plan to slowly phase out classic cars and motorcycles. Making it harder for people with older cars and motorcycles to get fuel would be quite an incentive for people to consider upgrading to newer “greener” cars. All of my cars are old classic’s and I see this E-15 stuff as a major threat to being able continue to use my cars on an every day basis.

    Why is it that whenever the EPA looks at pollution they try and put the burden on regular people rather than look at the emissions emitted by planes, trucks and busses. Cars and Motorcycles are a drop in the bucket in comparison to the pollution that Jets and large engines emit. And yet there’s no emissions laws on those. Oh wait. Jets, Semi’s and Busses are owned by big companies with huge legal budgets to cut through the FUD and fight whereas cars and motorcycles are owned by regular people without those resources. Food for thought.

  • “Honestly I see E-15 as part of a larger plan to slowly phase out classic cars and motorcycles.”

    This seems plausible. Only recently, France suggested imposing a city ban in Paris of any vehicle older than 7 years. The bogeyman of pollution is a buzzword for industry, but people need to be aware that the carbon debt associated with driving an older “polluter” is lower than that of a new vehicle. The carbon debt of a 100,000-mile classic car is already in the “gravy” zone. It takes 20+ years @ 15k/year for a Prius owner to reach that 0-offset level.

    What comes out the pipe is only part of the equation. It’s far more environmentally responsible to drive used vehicles than it is to buy new ones.

  • Robert Chase

    “It’s far more environmentally responsible to drive used vehicles than it is to buy new ones.”

    Absolutely. This is not really driven by a desire to improve the environment. It’s driven largely by financial motives. If consumer choice is limited we have no other option than to go out and buy new vehicles no matter how low the quality is if we want to keep driving. The Auto industry would love to keep cranking out plastic eco boxes that we are forced to buy.

    There would be outrage if they outright banned classic cars so let’s attack the fuel supply in the name of being environmentally friendly. I wish the Environazi hippies were not so stupid and would do something about the emissions from large vehicles and their armpits rather than going after regular people. It’s just easier for them to get their control freak on with regular people rather than big corporations who can defend themselves.

  • “I wish the Environazi hippies were not so stupid and would do something about the emissions from large vehicles and their armpits rather than going after regular people.”

    I’ve long considered myself a tree-hugging-eco-hippie. I just don’t have the hair to prove it anymore. ;-)

    It’s not a matter of disparaging a particular group within a population. People of all walks base their reactions on what they “know” (whether it’s correct or not). Environmentalists need to be given the bigger picture so they can make better, informed decisions. The same goes for everybody. Our worst enemy is government that panders to lobbyist money/promises. Shareholders demanding infinite growth are driving an unsustainable economic-/environmental model.

    At the end of the day, follow the money trail and you know where to point the finger. From this kid’s perspective, big business is squarely to blame for pushing a consumption agenda that will ultimately help to create the environmental disaster we’d all love to avoid.

  • Robert Chase


    Hat tip to you. Completely agree with you 100% especially about the un-sustainability of our current economic and environmental policies. I think in a lot of ways the government manages to deflect blame onto people who are interested in the environment in order to be able to not deal with the reaction from people like myself who are seeing their freedom’s taken away. It’s truly a shame as a nation we have been reduced to lying and stealing on a mass scale in order to make a buck.

  • “I think in a lot of ways the government manages to deflect blame onto people who are interested in the environment in order to be able to not deal with the reaction from people like myself who are seeing their freedom’s taken away.”

    A hat-tip right back atcha, Robert. Finding a scapegoat is a time-honoured tradition in misdirecting people’s aggression. Instead of allowing people to focus their attention on government, get the people fighting amongst themselves. Classic divide and conquer.